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Following the executive order issued in February

Yangchen C Rinzin

The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) will regulate non-certified hotels in the country following an executive order the government issued in February.

All non-certified hotels, popularly known as budget hotels, should be made to meet specific standards the Council will establish. Licenses would be issued to new hotels only after the TCB certifies the proposal.

TCB’s director general (DG), Dorji Dhradhul said what this means is that TCB would be responsible for managing the quality of the non-certified hotels through the development of standards, institution of assessment and certification system.

The DG said that it (Council) would develop incentives and other forms of support in consultation with relevant agencies. “This is a positive development, which will contribute to the objective to improve the quality of the hotel industry and uphold high value, low volume tourism policy.”

The current practice is that star-rated hotels have to submit their proposal to the TCB, but non-star hotels did not have to. Now they will have to route through TCB.

About 160 hotels and another 150 village homestays are certified by TCB to host the minimum daily package rate (MDPR) tourists. However, this requirement does not apply to non-MDPR paying tourists from Bangladesh, India and Maldives.

“This is why given this flexibility, most of these tourists use non-certified hotels,” the DG said. “Although they contribute to the economy, there is no designated regulatory authority for such accommodation providers.”

He explained that there are no standards for the non-certified hotels in the absence of an oversight agency and that has led to concerns of hygiene, comfort, safety and quality of services.

This has been a concern in the tourism sector because it contradicted the tourism policy of providing quality services irrespective of who the guests were, including Bhutanese.

In the absence of reliable data on the numbers of existing non-certified hotels, planning any interventions for non-star hotels have often gone wrong, leading to wastage of limited resources.

“To address such challenges and other issues related to tourism, the government directed TCB to take on the responsibility to manage non-certified hotels,” Dorji Dhradhul said.

There is no record of budget hotels, but the TCB estimates that there are about 500 non-certified hotels today.

 

Assessment

TCB will conduct a nationwide assessment for the non-certified hotels.

Following the executive order, TCB is already under the process of developing a holistic management framework. It will also include formulation of standards, development of standard operating procedures, capacity building, and criteria for assessment and certification.

The DG said that TCB would also propose a fiscal incentive package for non-certified hotels, currently available only for certified hotels. This, however, will depend on the consideration of the finance ministry.

In line with the executive order, TCB will also strengthen monitoring in collaboration with stakeholders like regional industry and trade offices, economic development officers. “This is an interim measure, but the plan is to progressively work towards making the certification a mandatory requirement for all tourist hotels, irrespective of nationalities,” Dorji Dhradhul added.

A core working group is currently in Paro drafting standards for non-star hotels in collaboration with the Bhutan Standards Bureau and members from the economic affairs ministry, hotel and restaurant association of Bhutan, and TCB.

The members will focus on standards like comfort, hygiene, safety, services and quality.

“Once the standards are in place, it’ll be mandatory for non-star hotels to apply for assessment and certification by TCB,” Dorji Dhradhul added. “We’ll not ask to close down the existing hotels but will ask them to incorporate certain standards developed,” director general said.

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